Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bakery Find: Salty Tart in Minneapolis

Salty Tart is located in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Again - this has not been endorsed or solicitated by anyone other than my love and quest for the best baked goods.
The best question when standing in front of the bakery case - is how much can I possibly hold down - this all looks so great!

I made a morning out of this quest. First stop - a run around one of the many lakes in Minneapolis. I knew that hitting a bakery would take some prework - and so I picked a nearby lake that I had never run around before. Lake Nokomis was full of walkers, bikers and even some on rollerblades. I ran one loop - then threw on the skates for another lap for good measure. GOOD THING - because I was not in any position to only choose one treat from this bakery.

From the case - I chose a nectarine galette (made with half of an organic nectarine and pounds of butter). I also purchased a coconut macaroon and brioch filled with custard. A coffee and water - and I was ready for the challenge. The brioch and macaroon were meant for later - which meant I had them for lunch. The nectarine delight was my special treat. The woman behind the counter said that it tasted just like summer - and she was right.

This bakery was just opened in 2008 - but has already gotten several good reviews. I loved that everything was housemade - and very professionally done. The options were at once unique and traditional. My only wish would be for the Salty Tart to open a location in my neighborhood (that's St. Anthony Main in NE MPLS - Hennepin and University Aves in case anyone from the ST is reading this!!).

Similar post: A Baker's Wife in Minneapolis

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Calendar Girls: biking, pie and fun dinners

Biking through southern Minnesota (from Lanesboro) over a long weekend with two girlfriends: 140 miles biked, 5 pieces of pie, 1 day kayaking and great food throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morels and Sweet Potato Risotto

Basic Risotto

(from Everyday Italian)
4 cups homemade chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 an onion)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

My add-ins: 7-8 dried morel mushrooms soaked in hot milk, 2 diced and roasted sweet potatoes, 1 pork chop

Before getting the risotto started, I diced the sweet potatoes and tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt/pepper. I roasted them on a baking sheet at 425 for 35 minutes (stirring after 25 minutes). Be careful not to let these cook too much. You don't want too hard of a crust on them. The mushrooms also needed to be reconstituted - so I heated up some milk until almost boiling and covered the mushrooms with the hot milk. The bowl was covered and left for about 30 minutes.

The pork chop had been sitting in the fridge with a rub on it for 24 hours (was meaning to use it for something else). It was grilled on high for about 3-4 minutes per side. It remained VERY moist while getting such a pretty crust from the sugar in the rub (used a sweet commercial rub). It was sliced and served on top of the risotto.

Add-in instructions: the mushrooms (and the milk they soaked in) were added to the onions after they turned translucent. The sweet potato was stirred in with the parm at the very end.

Directions from recipe

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer.Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Girls' Cabin Weekend

Last weekend, I headed north to a cabin on a lake with about 12 girls for the weekend. Perfect excuse to do some baking!

In charge of breakfast treats, I made blueberry muffins, biscotti and banana bread. All things that I have done before - so I know they'll work. But - in order to change it up a bit I decided to try a few new techniques that I found.

Blueberry Muffins I used my favorite recipe from the American Test Kitchen book. However, I used some of Joy the Baker's tips from her Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins. I browned the butter and used the topping from Joy's recipe. The topping just makes the muffins look so much better - and it's just flour, butter, and sugar. So easy! I used a pastry cutter instead of my fingers to mash up the topping ingredients. To make it travel worthy - I baked the muffins 95% of the way at home, then popped them in the oven at 250 for 30 minutes right before serving. This browned them up a bit more, took away the tackiness from traveling airtight, and let me serve them warm without a mess in the kitchen.

For the biscotti, I followed another favorite recipe and used dried cherries, toasted whole almonds and chopped white chocolate for the 'add-ins'. I formed the logs more narrow than I usually do - and was sure to chill the dough logs before baking to help them hold their shape (just like cookies.) I love this recipe - the addition of butter keeps them soft enough to eat without dunking into coffee first. Nice when sharing with a crowd - it eliminates the need to post a warning to avoid broken teeth!

The banana bread got rave reviews! I stirred in 1/2 cup each of toasted coconut and walnuts (instead of chocolate chips) and topped the bread with melted bittersweet chocolate. The add-ins really boosted the texture and helped differentiate it from the blueberry muffin texture.

A nice way to have 'variety' with cookie-like biscotti, perfectly sweet blueberry muffins and nutty banana bread with coconut and chocolate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Love from Minnesota: New In Town

From a native (and current) Minnesotan - 'New in Town' is at once hilarious and accurate. The sense of humor, the language, the accent - it's all too true.
There are some subtleties that some non-natives would not pick up on.

1. Conflict is bad. Changing the subject is better than arguing. In fact, many do not know how to argue and if you see an argument - it's pretty odd. So - in an early scene when Renee is arguing over the dinner table I couldn't stop laughing. The kids thought it was "cool" because they had never seen people argue!

2. Everyone knows everybody. Watch out - because they are probably related too.

3. Making jokes about Jesus may be really funny - but not in a small MN town!

4. The handy Min UH SOH TAH pronunciation guide is quite accurate and helpful if moving to a small town here. Check out the link on the movie website here.

5. You need a car emergency kit. A handmade quilt with helpful phone numbers sewn on the squares would really be the ideal for your trunk. Don't drive anywhere without a blanket in the car! A bottle of alcohol really isn't a good idea.

6. Just because someone sounds different, likes to give hugs and values tapioca - doesn't make them less smart.

7. Not everyone or everytown in Minnesota is like the movie. Minnesota is a great mix of tradition and culture - and it isn't always cold. We just like to think that we have 4 distinct seasons - and it gives us something to agree on.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Birthday! White chocolate and raspberry cake

Cakes drove me to a love of baking and finding a wonderful life partner in The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I'm no expert on decorating - I'm more concerned with the taste and texture of the cake and frosting.

This was the Golden Luxury Butter Cake (p. 48) made with a bit of white chocolate in the cake batter to help increase that "melt in your mouth" feature. I made the classic buttercream (p. 230) from the cookbook - and followed the chocolate directions using white chocolate again instead of dark. I then followed the recipe for a raspberry puree and sauce (p. 337) for a filling.

The raspberry puree was the most fun - and newest attempt - for me. It started with frozen raspberries sitting in a mesh colander overnight to thaw and drip the juices into a bowl. I set a small shotglass under the colander to ensure that the berries were not sitting in their juices - but that there was room for it to drip. The juice that dripped out makes about 1.25 cups and is cooked down to about .25 cups. Then, the berries are smashed through the mesh colander to extract the berries while leaving the seeds behind. This took some time and elbow grease - but wasn't difficult. I was able to extract the prescribed cup of puree.

The cooked-down juice and puree were combined with a bit of sugar and lemon juice - and was ready to go.

To ensure that the puree didn't leek into the cake - I covered the bottom layer with a crumb coat of buttercream and made a bit of a buttercream dam around the edge to help keep the puree inside. Once that was firmed up (15 minutes in the fridge) - I spooned on half of my raspberry puree and finished frosting the cake.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Breakfast Treats for a Crowd

I felt like I won the lottery when H. asked for home baked goods for a morning meeting with his non-profit board. It's been a few weeks of no work place - meaning no team of office workers ready to eat my baking. I can't eat it all myself!

I decided to make two different items that could then be paired with fruit and coffee as desired.

Blueberry Ginger Bundt Cake
Banana Bread (and muffins) covered with bittersweet chocolate frosting

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ultimate White Pizza: beets, walnuts, mushrooms and goat cheese

This pizza - admittedly - had a lot going on. I love beets - and wanted to find a way to incorporate them into a vegetarian dinner for dear H. and myself.

So - I came up with a pizza idea. After picking up a ready-made whole wheat pizza crust from Trader Joe's and some goat cheese - I had everything else in the cabinet and was ready to go.

Ultimate White Pizza
1 TJ raw pizza dough
1 red onion
1 pkg mushrooms (used shiitake)
3 garlic cloves
2 handfuls of toasted walnuts
1 small package goat cheese
1-2 cups mozzerella (to taste)
olive oil
salt and pepper (i used sea salt)

1. Let dough rest at room temp for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F with pizza stone in the oven.
2. Scrub and peel beets. Cut into small half-moon slices. Cut onion in small half-moon slices.
3. Drizzle onions, beets, mushrooms and garlic with olive oil. Spread onto baking sheet lined with tin foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-35 minutes until soft - stirring about halfway through cooking.
5. Increase oven temp to 500 and move pizza stone to middle of oven.
4. Build Pizza: Stretch dough to desired thickness and size. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over crust (this is the only sauce). Layer with toppings. Sprinkle with salt - including the edge of the crust.
5. Bake pizza for 12-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the crust and toppings. Pizza is done when the middle of the pie is melted and hot.

Note: I layered the roasted veggies and walnuts under the cheese. Next time, I would put the cheese on the bottom and the veggies on top for a prettier presentation.

That's the beauty of pizza - you can get a little creative and it will probably work out well. This was really tasty and was a fun way to get in a few servings of vegetables and whole grains. This also held up well for a leftover lunch the next day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Time Smoker and Hooked for LIFE!

Menu: Sweet and Fruity Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeach Barbecue Suace, Roasted Kale, and french fries

Smoking a pork tenderloin is said to be tough. I only heard that after it was plated and formed the opinion that it was decidely moist, tender, and delicious. I was happy not to have the preconception of this being difficult - because it really just needed time.

Using a smoker instead of a grill is true
BBQ. Smoking the meat lets the fat render and flavor the piece. Meat that has little fat can be more difficult. This was offset by using a great rub and basting liquid called a "Mop." Recipes for the rub and mop can be found on the recipe page. The white basting tool was made from an old t-shirt cut into strips and braided together at the top. This mop tool has lasted 2 summers now - and is washed in the dishwasher.

The tenderloin smoked for a bit over 3 hours at 200 - 220F.

So - I did it! I mastered the scary smoker that has been in my husband's domain since we got married three and a half years ago. This is an achievement that will really take me places - at least to new cookbooks for dinner ideas! You can use a grill like a smoker -but I am not the expert on that. You'll have to look elsewhere.

Go forth - and smoke!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bakery Find: A Baker's Wife in Minneapolis

A Baker's Wife Pastry Shop
4200 28th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 729-6898

note: this is not endorsed by the bakery and I was not paid or enticed in any way to post this.

As I was scanning the choices for my breakfast this morning - I saw that there was only one cherry pastry left on the tray. I kept looking - there was a lot to see - then went back to the cherry and it was gone! There were no other customers - so I thought maybe it was pulled for a good reason (it better be a good reason because I LOVE cherry.)

The best reason of all - to refill the tray with fresh from the oven pastries. Wow. This was soft and buttery - not at all dry. The cherries were sour with just a bit of topping and frosting keeping the cherries the centerpiece.

I sat at a little table outside - inside were some chairs and tables, but not much room to hang out. This was a true bakery with an espresso machine - but not the 'coffee shop' environment that would encourage loitering. I loved how the interior was covered with funny signs, mismatched tables and chairs, and had the baked goods front and center. I think this is the sign of an owner with proper priorities - BAKING. I don't think the owner focused much on branding - but maybe that was the point?

Try it - you'll like it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Carnie for a Day: working a 'Fry Bread' stand

Imagine standing in a 100 sq. ft tent from 11am to 10:30 pm frying, sugaring, and selling bread for $3 each. Sound fun? It sounded fun at 10:30 am that day... Really, this was quite the experience.

The "booth" was made by crafting a camping mesh tent, some 2x4's, some birch trees and a big black board for a sign. We hauled out a few tables, camping stoves, cast iron pots and a few coolers.

How to make Fry Bread
In the bakery - bread dough was made. Each 'loaf' was sectioned into 6 pieces and these discs were greased layered in parchment paper on big bakery trays. The bread discs were stretched and fried in vegetable oil for about 45 seconds each side. Once fried - they were drained (slightly) and covered in cinnamon and sugar. Some makers of Fry Bread will brush the fried dough with butter before sugaring - we didn't miss the butter.
note: This is always called "fry bread" not "fried bread" as most literate non-iron rangers would think. This is just one of many nuances of the northern Minnesotan vernacular.

My brother (on the left above), my husband, and I stood in the booth all day. H. fried the bread ALL day, brother T. sugared and plated, and I took the money - tried to sell cold press coffee - and monster bars. We made real cold press coffee by the way - and sold about 7 cups (compared to about 500 pieces of bread). All of the Monster Bars (big brownies and pnut butter rice krispy bars) sold by the end of the night. We ran out of sugar, paper plates, and napkins - good thing we had some 'runners' that were able to run to the store for us!

Next year - the price will probably go up to $4 each and we'll have bottled water to sell. I think my Mom is already making plans to attend other fairs in the future with the huge success of the inaugural Fry Bread Booth. We had a little training session at the end of the night so that when her free labor went back to the city - she could replicate our awesome process.

Next year - I think I'm staying at home for the 4th of July!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Small Town USA: burgers and royalty

Aurora, MN has a population of just under 1500 people. This small town in the northern 'Arrowhead' area of the state is in the heart of the "Iron Range" named for the taconite mines that have provided the livelyhood of the area for generations.
Aurora is my true hometown. I lived there until I was 8 years old with my three older brothers and parents - both of whom went to high school there. My mother purchased the closed bakery about 2 years ago and is single-handedly running it as the town's only: espresso machine, music stage, coffee shop, and bakery. 

I make the 4 hour trip - not as often as some would like - and love spending time in the bakery helping out. Lots of memories were made on this past trip over the 4th of July...

As you can see above, a highlight was meeting Miss Aurora. This queen was crowned for selling the most buttons. She was hanging out with her friends at the bar/restaurant "Ruby's" when we were grabbing a burger and a beer. Sidenote: author was taking a break from baking - which might explain the funny headband...

This burger below was something akin to a patty melt. The best part - american cheese on both slices of bread, then DEEP FRIED and coated with parmesan cheese. It was a first. Served with onion rings - it was the 'last dinner' of fried food before standing in a Fry Bread station all day (more to come on that!) Suddenly, fried food is out of favor with this household. It will be awhile before we can stomach the grease.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bakery Day!

Drove up to Mom's bakery - Taconite Brew and Bakery (Aurora, MN pop. 1500) - to help out with the festivities for the 4th of July. The best part - Aurora (along with several other small towns in the area) celebrate on the 3rd to allow families to travel to the big city of Virginia (pop. 40k) for the actual 4th.

These were taken on the evening of the 2nd. Mom made cookies and I got to help with the family recipe Potica (nut roll). The Potica came out beautifully - and will be attempted in the smaller home kitchen sometime soon.